How well did your website perform this week? How much traffic did it get in the last month? How many leads did it generate for you in the last quarter?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or at least where to find the answers, then move to the front of the class and pay close attention. Measuring the performance of your website is a vital part of digital marketing. Online tools (even free ones!) give us the ability to collect huge amounts of data from our websites. So, why not take advantage of them?
You've heard of Google Analytics, and maybe already have it installed on your website. Here’s our quick guide on how it can boost your business and marketing performance.
How many companies use Google Analytics?
To perform successfully and allow for continued optimization, all websites should have some form of analytics installed. While there are many useful web analytics tools available, Google Analytics is certainly the most well-known and likely the most used. Google isn’t exactly forthcoming with this information, but estimates in 2015 were placed at anywhere between 30 and 50 million websites using Google Analytics.
What does Google Analytics measure?
Google Analytics allows you to measure a huge array of statistics related to the performance of your site and the activity of its users. There’s more than most businesses could feasibly measure in a way that provides actionable insights. So, you have to prioritize which metrics you want to focus on.
While it’s not an exhaustive list, here are some of the key metrics that Google Analytics can measure:
- Unique users
- Time spent on site
- Pages viewed
- User demographics
- User location
- Bounce rate
- Referral sources
- Devices used to view site
- Browsers used to view site
How accurate is Google Analytics?
Even Google has its limitations. There are certain circumstances where Google Analytics is unable to track users and their activity. Some of these situations are out of your control – when a user has disabled cookies on their browser, for example. This means that their activity on your site cannot be tracked and this data will not appear in your reports. Because there’s nothing you can do here, just remember that your Analytics data might not include 100% of the visitors to your site.
In other cases, inaccuracies can occur because of the way you have set Google Analytics up. This can lead to your site traffic being overreported. It can be a real ego boost to see huge amounts of traffic coming to your website. However, if this traffic isn’t representative of the amount of interest and engagement you are getting from your audience, then it undermines the value of your analytics.
Here are two problems that commonly arise in Google Analytics that can skew your traffic data (luckily, they have easy fixes):
The people in your business might visit your website several times a day. Maybe to check that a blog has been published or respond to a comment. Unless you tell Google to ignore this traffic, it will count it in your analytics. To stop this, add the IP address for your business and anyone else you want to exclude, and create an IP exclusion filter for these addresses.
As well as the people you don’t want to track, some of your traffic won’t be from people at all. Bots trawl through the web, some with malicious intents, and drive your traffic higher. If you go into the admin panel and select “view settings,” there is a checkbox that allows you to exclude traffic from all known bots (at the bottom of the image below). Make sure you tick this box.
You can also manually exclude websites from your traffic report if you think they are spam. These are generally easy to identify by looking at your acquisition reports because they’ll have visited something like 43 different pages and spent a total of zero seconds on them.
How to apply your insights to marketing
Now that you’ve got all this data, what do you do with it? You need to turn that data into actionable insights that will help to optimize your marketing performance. Information collected on your audience can help you really hone in on your target market and learn how to appeal to and communicate with them directly.
Google Analytics can also help you to track and optimize individual marketing campaigns and channels:
In your acquisition channel, you will see which sources your traffic is coming from. This includes direct traffic, referral, and social. This gives you an idea of how much of your website traffic is coming from your social media channels. You can then drill down deeper into this to see which social channels are driving the most traffic. With this information, you can judge which platforms are working and which ones aren’t. This can help you to optimize your social strategy.
- In acquisition, you can also see how much traffic is directing to your website from search engines. This is split into organic search and, if you run paid search campaigns, paid search. Your organic search traffic data can show you whether the SEO of your site needs improving. Paid search data, combined with your AdWords data, also gives you great insights into the performance of your search ads. As well as seeing how many people click on a search result or ad, you can also see what they do once they land on your site. This allows you to assess the quality of certain keywords.
- You may also be able to integrate your email service provider with Google Analytics, depending on the platform you use. MailChimp, Constant Contact, and Vertical Response, for example, all offer this feature. You can also manually track links from your email campaigns (and any other campaign for that matter) in Google Analytics by adding UTM parameters to the included links.
How often should you check Google Analytics?
There’s no hard and fast rule about checking your analytics, just make sure you don’t forget about it! It’s a good idea to create weekly and/or monthly reports with the most important metrics covered. These are generated automatically and emailed to you so you can keep an eye on your site’s performance. Monitor these reports to determine what action you can take to improve your website.
If you do log into your analytics each day, even for a minute or two, then important things to check are your site visits and page views. This gives you an idea of how much traffic your site is getting and how this changes over time. If you have goals set up (which I highly recommend), then these are also good to check on a regular basis.
Moving forward: If you don’t have an analytics tool installed on your website or aren’t checking it regularly, we sure hope you've changed your mind now!
Which web analytics tool do you prefer to use?